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Nintendo Wii Review: Sid Meier’s Pirates!

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Ports of games aren’t necessarily a surprising thing. Publishers do it all the time, it’s common for a title to find its way onto another platform these days. But what about ports of older titles? Now that’s something you don’t see very often.

When 2K Games announced that Sid Meier’s Pirates! would be coming to the Wii many were surprised. I mean, the game originally came out in 2004 and is now available for the Xbox (with backwards compatibility for the 360), PC, Mac, and Sony PSP. That’s not even taking into consideration the fact that this version of Pirates! is a remake of a identically named title from the ’80s. That leaves the title pretty much feeling like a staple. Is there still a market for Pirates!? Does the Wii version add any value to the experience? Or has all the loot been plundered?

For all intents and purposes, the Wii version of Sid Meier’s Pirates! is a faithful representation of the 2004 remake. If you played any of the other installments, you’ll feel right at home with the Wii edition. Really the only differences to be spotted are motion controls and a couple of new mini-games.

The motion controls with the Wii-mote work well enough, though I’d be hard-pressed to say that they are any better than a standard control layout. The only difference with the motion effects comes during combat where players swing the controller left, right, and up in order to perform sword swings. It feels natural enough, but it stands out as being tacked on. Why the motion controls weren’t placed in other parts of the game such as ship navigation is beyond me. The manual controls with the standard scheme feel a tad cumbersome, though they are functional and the gameplay is never too demanding that they feel flawed.

As far as the new minigames are concerned, there is Bombardment (firing cannonballs) and Lock Picking (which is self explanatory). Personally I found Bombardment to be a little more exciting due to the fact that it was more action-oriented, however, Lock Picking fits into the theme of the game as well and is nicely implemented. While both of these additions are worthwhile, they aren’t exactly enough to be a draw for those who have already played the game. In fact, I’d go as far as to say Pirates! for the Wii is strictly for newcomers.

With that in mind, if you haven’t actually played Pirates! yet, then you don’t really know what it’s about so let’s back up. Basically the game is a strategy title where you have to balance resources and bide your time. Gameplay is broken down into combat, exploring ports, and bartering with merchants. There’s plenty of looting and pillaging to be had and the game really simulates the experience of being a pirate captain.

There are plenty of ships to blow out of the water and loot to be stolen as you carve a name out for yourself. The gameplay is straightforward and simple, and the amount of customization the game offers keeps things from getting too stale. Whether or not you’ve played the title before in another version, the gameplay is simple and easy to get into (though maybe a little dated). Parts of the game are fun and other parts are a little dry. The result is an experience that’s definitely worth having, but maybe not one worth reliving again and again.

Unfortunately the graphics in Sid Meier’s Pirates! are still trapped back in 2004. Character designs are a little rough and the glitches that plagued the original title are still here in force — collision detection, occasional choppy animations, and a general lack of detail really takes this title down a few pegs. With that being said, the game is colorful and the designs offers a great deal of personality. It’s not terrible by any stretch of the imagination, but the game is definitely not the best looking Wii outing. Similarly, the audio in the game is identical to the previous releases — swashbuckling tunes and sound effects keep the atmosphere rich while giving it a nice feeling of adventure. The lack of voice acting is awkward during cut scenes, but it’s easy to get past.

This adventure on the high seas is a blast for the most part, though some of the mechanics feel a little antiquated and some elements don’t quite mesh. It’s not perfect by any means, but if you’re looking for a good game to pick up for the Wii and you haven’t played it before, picking up Sid Meier’s Pirates! is a no-brainer. I would say that the title isn’t worth a double-dip for anyone that already has or has had their sea legs, but for newcomers this is a strong recommendation.

Sid Meier’s Pirates! is rated E10+ (Everyone 10 and older) by the ESRB for Alcohol Reference, Mild Language, Mild Violence, and Suggestive Themes. This game can also be found on: Mac, PC, PSP, and Xbox.

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About Todd Douglass